Two games into the 2021 season, Ohio State has already suffered its first defeat.
For the first time in program history, Oregon handed the Buckeyes a loss on Saturday, doing so on Ohio State’s home turf in a 35-28 game that saw more than 1,100 yards of offense combined on both sides.
Oregon had 505 of those on its own, with 269 yards and three touchdowns on the ground alone, which left Buckeye defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs with plenty of questions to answer from the media after the game.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we have to do things differently going forward,” Coombs said. “Obviously the result today is not acceptable, and so we have to do things differently.”
However, a complete 180-degree change may not be coming right away when it comes to Ohio State’s fundamental defensive scheme, even if the need for improvement is obvious.
“I think that the defensive structure that has been in place has been a successful one, and one that a lot of folks are really comfortable with,” Coombs said. “And so again, I think we have to execute, we have to prepare, we have to do a good job of having our kids in the right places to make the right plays. I will own all of it.”
In the past three games dating back to last season, the Buckeyes are now giving up an average of 39.3 points per game, with 511.3 total yards per game to boot. Coombs emphasized several times after the game that the responsibility for the Buckeyes’ defensive issues rests solely on his shoulders.
“I’m disappointed. That’s how I feel,” Coombs said. “I hate losing, I hate it with a passion. You don’t come to Ohio State to get beat. You don’t come to Ohio State to get beat in the Shoe. So I’m disappointed.”
There was even a moment during the game in which Ryan Day was seen getting into it with Coombs on the sideline a bit, but the Buckeye head coach said after the game that the interaction wasn’t anything to be too alarmed about. Day added that blame for the loss should not only be placed on Coombs.
“When you’re in the heat of the battle, you have to get things addressed and fixed, and that’s just kind of how things go,” Day said. “I thought in the end, they got two got stops for us on offense, and then we didn’t do anything with it. So the offense has got to do their part in this thing as well. And again, I don’t think we established the run, and then when the defense did give the offense the ball back, we didn’t do anything with it. We had two opportunities, we didn’t score on them. There’s enough blame to go around here.”
The Buckeyes put up plenty of yards on offense, but despite racking up 612 in total, Ohio State came away with just 28 points on the day. With a chance to tie the game or take the lead on three straight possessions in the final seven minutes, the Buckeyes failed to score a single point.
In his second career start at quarterback, C.J. Stroud threw for the second-most yards in Ohio State single-game history (484), but even an increased comfortability from Week 1 to Week 2 was not enough to lift the Buckeyes to victory. After the game, Stroud actually alluded to the fact that he might not have practiced much in the lead-up to Saturday, and seems to be dealing with an ongoing shoulder injury.
“I actually felt really comfortable,” Stroud said. “I thank God I even got to play this game. He’s been a blessing this week for me, I’ll say it like that. I’ve been through a lot this week, so just being out there felt good, just getting back to football. I feel like early on in the game I was really comfortable, I mean being at home was way better than being away. I felt the love in the stadium, so I appreciate Buckeye Nation for that.”
Stroud said he sustained some “nicks and bruises” from the Minnesota game, but didn’t specifically say he was limited against Oregon in any significant way.
“I was healthy enough to play. So that’s really all that matters,” Stroud said. “My receivers did a great job of creating separation for me today, and I feel like even after I got going, I didn’t feel any pain in my shoulder. I’ll be alright, I’m good.”
Following the loss, Stroud said he received some words of encouragement from defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who told him “the season’s not over,” even after the early-season setback. In fact, Garrett likened the loss to the Buckeyes’ 2014 defeat to Virginia Tech.
“We got a long season. This ain’t COVID anymore,” Garrett said. “Our main objective is still there. We need to get to Indy. It’s a non-conference game. We’re gonna take this as a lesson, we’re gonna get on the film and nobody should be hanging their heads low. Hang your heads high. All this is is a lesson. We need to get on the film tomorrow. Make the proper corrections. We’re gonna put it behind us, and then go play the next game. It is what it is. They did it in ‘14. We can do it in 2021.”
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